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COMING HOME: Keeping things uncomplicated

Jessie Veeder

WATFORD CITY, N.D. -- I don’t remember the first time I was on a horse. I was too young, I suppose. It was possibly in my dad’s lap, my little body wedged in behind his arm and the saddle horn as he maneuvered us around the barnyard, three creatures combined, connected and moving slowly, feeling out our world.

There’s a photo of me in that barnyard when I was about 3 or so. I had on a purple beanie and a pastel winter coat, my little pant legs creeping up to show the soft, pudgy skin against the leather of the saddle.

My smile is big and I’m leaning over to grip my hands on the saddle horn. A younger version of my dad is resting his arm on the neck of his horse. My dad, close to the age I am now, with a grin and a small, chubby daughter he just lifted up on his horse.

Photos like these are taken and tucked away in old albums, stuck between pictures of birthday cakes and Christmas mornings, left there to create memories that might not otherwise be there.

I’ve looked through those albums enough now to decide that I remember those days, that I remember that purple beanie and the smell of the leather on that saddle and the feel of the fall air on my rosy cheeks.

I wonder then, when it is we decide to be a part of something when that something has been there before a memory could be formed? At what point does it become our choice?

I ask because I’ve been asked. “When did you learn to ride horses?”

And I can’t answer.

It’s the same with the music, when I’m asked about learning to sing.

I can’t answer because I don’t remember the first moments my hand touched the sleek back of a summer horse. I don’t remember if I was scared or curious or elated. And I don’t remember when I found my voice and decided that I might just keep using it, to talk, to tell stories … to sing.

I don’t remember because those first moments of experience I cannot recall. Were these decisions I made, or were they made for me?

I don’t know. But I’ll tell you this; last week I saddled my bay horse for the first time after a long winter. I lifted my leg up over his back and followed my sister and my dad out over crocus-covered hills and step by step I remembered a piece of myself that had been sleeping all those cold months.

And it’s not that I’m more alive up there on the back of a horse, or that I’m a particular equine expert. I’m not the best rider, or any kind of instructor or valuable ranch hand.


But to me, riding a good horse is like singing that familiar song I suppose, the one your mom hummed as she scrubbed the dishes and looked out the kitchen window.

A song you always knew.

And I know we’re not all made for riding horses or singing kitchen songs. I know this.

But I believe we’re all made with something in us meant to take us away, a place to go when we’ve managed to complicate our lives enough for one day.

And to me, there has never been anything complicated about a good song.

Or a good horse.

Veeder is a musician and writer living with her husband on a ranch near Watford City. Readers can reach her at